greenhouse gas emissions

As Colorado continues its transition towards clean energy, the state’s commitment to monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains steadfast. The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, responsible for overseeing emissions data, is gearing up for its second legally mandated greenhouse gas inventory, expected to be completed by early 2024.

A Brief History

The journey to this point began back in 2008 when then-Governor Bill Ritter ordered Colorado to conduct its first greenhouse gas inventory. Over the years, the state has undertaken multiple inventories under various requirements. Notably, the 2021 inventory marked the first legally mandated inventory by statute, setting a significant milestone for Colorado’s commitment to addressing climate change.

Legislative Actions

Recent legislative actions have further reinforced Colorado’s commitment to emissions reductions. Laws like HB21-1266 and HB21-1286 have expanded emissions targets to various sectors, including buildings, oil and gas, and industrial manufacturing. These laws also emphasize tracking emissions that disproportionately impact communities, underlining the state’s focus on environmental equity.

Rulemaking Triggers

To ensure accountability, rulemaking triggers have been established. If sectors like oil and gas or industrial manufacturing are not on track to achieve their emissions reduction goals, the state will step in to address the situation. This proactive approach demonstrates Colorado’s dedication to meeting its climate targets.

New GHG Inventory Requirements

One significant change is the requirement for new greenhouse gas inventories every two years. In collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, the state will analyze this data. The analysis is expected to yield an executive summary by the end of the year and a detailed report in early 2024.

The Path to Reduction

Looking at the historical emissions data, we can see notable progress. In 2005, Colorado’s emissions were a staggering 147.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. By 2020, emissions had decreased to 129.9 million metric tons, representing an impressive 12.7% reduction overall. The most significant reductions occurred after 2010, with emissions dropping by almost 30 million metric tons, roughly an 18.6% decrease.

Breaking down the sources of emissions, electric power accounted for nearly a quarter, while transportation and oil/natural gas systems each contributed to about a fifth. Industry contributed just over an eighth, agriculture just under an eighth, buildings emitted 10%, and waste/coal mining combined emitted less than 2%.

What’s Ahead

While the upcoming inventory will include agriculture, waste, forestry, and land use changes, specific quantifications for these categories were not addressed in the recent meeting. Agriculture and forestry will encompass emissions from livestock management, agricultural soils, and land use practices like occasional field burning. Forestry will consider managed lands such as forests, croplands, grasslands, wetlands, and settlements.

Electricity Sector:

Colorado has ambitious targets to reduce electricity emissions by 48% by 2025 and 80% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. In 2020, emissions were just under 30 million tons, representing a remarkable 29% reduction from 2005.

Oil and Gas Sector:

In 2020, there was a 5% increase in emissions relative to 2005, but this figure comes with significant uncertainties due to methodological choices. Efforts to refine estimates are underway, recognizing the limitations of the current estimation method.

Industrial and Manufacturing Sector:

This sector has achieved lower uncertainty emissions compared to oil and gas. In 2020, emissions stood at 13.5 million tons, indicating that the sector has made progress toward its 20% reduction goal by 2030. The majority of emissions in this sector come from combustion in the upstream and midstream segments of the oil and gas industry. Efforts are being made to understand emissions from smaller manufacturing sources and unregulated emissions.

As Colorado continues its journey toward a cleaner, more sustainable future, these greenhouse gas inventories serve as crucial tools for tracking progress, setting goals, and ensuring a healthier environment for all residents. With legislative support and a commitment to transparency, the state is well on its way to achieving its emissions reduction targets.